Brewers drop series on south side

June 25, 2012

> I usually take pride in the fact that I know most of the players in the MLB. Whether or not they’re All-Stars or no-names, I tend to to know most of them. So, when the Brewers lose on a walk-off hit from a player I’ve never even remotely heard of, it’s not a good sign.

> The Brewers fell to the White Sox today, 1-0, in ten innings. The bullpen as a whole has been terrible this year, and they’ve pretty much taken turns on who gets the loss. Today, it was Manny Parra, who gave up a walk-off single to a .190-hitting rookie named Eduardo Escobar. Who is he? Beats me. Nor do I care. But I do care about the fact that the Brewers basically don’t have a bullpen anymore.

On the bright side, the Brewers got another stellar starting pitching performance today, this one from Michael Fiers, who had the best start of his young career. He hurled 7 1/3 shutout innings while giving up five hits. He walked one and struck out seven, lowering his ERA to 2.70.

Marco Estrada is returning this week, but, with Shaun Marcum likely to be on the disabled list for the next two weeks, Fiers will still get a chance to make his mark in Milwaukee. I was doubtful for a while, but, if Fiers pitches better than Estrada while Marcum is on the DL, I’d love to see him stay in the rotation rather than Estrada.

Meanwhile, the Sox got another great start from Jose Quintana, who has come out of nowhere and put up unbelievable numbers. His ERA is 1.25 since his call-up last month, and this was his second straight start of eight innings and no runs. He shut down the Cardinals his last time out, so I guess I’m not going to get too worried that the Brewers couldn’t get much going against him.

> I’ve just about had it with Nyjer Morgan. His acts and things were funny and entertaining last year, but now I’m realizing that was just because he was performing on the field to back it up. After the Brewers acquired him in March of 2011, he went on to hit .304 and was a huge part of the Brewers’ NLCS run.

But now he just looks like an idiot, and his performance on the field is making sure of it. Today, in the ninth inning, the Brewers had two runners on, from singles by Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart, with one out. Morgan was pinch running for Ramirez and was on second. After Rickie Weeks struck out, George Kottaras was up to bat and had a 3-1 count. He swung and missed at the next pitch. For some reason, Morgan was “running” on the pitch, but was thrown out by a mile by White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski for the third out. It was obvious Morgan thought there was a 3-2 count. But, upon watching the replay, Morgan was barely even running. It looked like he was taking a walking lead from second, but, instead of running back to second on Pierzynski’s throw, he kept running to third and was an easy out. That’s stupid enough, but Morgan had to make it worse in a postgame interview, saying that “mistakes are part of his game.”

Designate him for assignment. Now.

> He can follow Brooks Conrad out of town. Speak of the .075 hitter, he’s hitting .500 with the Rays. He had a double yesterday, then a pair of two-run doubles today. So, in two days with his new team, he doubled the production he put up in nearly three months with the Brewers.

Have fun with your new team, Brooks. We won’t miss you.

> Today, Rowan Kavner wrote an articleabout Cody Ransom’s versatility in the field. But what he didn’t mention is the fact that Ransom has struck out 36 times in 87 plate appearances with the Brewers, and 57 in 126 all year. That’s a worse strikeout rate than Weeks.

> I could go on writing about the flaws of this team, but I’d be here all night. So let’s just preview the upcoming Brewers-Reds series, which is going to be the defining series of the year for the Brewers, any way you look at it.

The Reds are currently 39-32, good for first place in the National League Central. They were on a tear that included a six-game winning streak just last week, but have cooled off since. They’re 6.5 games ahead of the Brewers in the standings, meaning if the Brewers somehow came through to sweep them, we’d be just 3.5 games back. However, if the Reds swept the Brewers, they’d be 9.5 games out, and the season would might as well be over. So the Brewers have to at least take two out of three in this series at all costs in order to stay in relative shouting distance to the rest of the division.

The series starts tomorrow at the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park. The last time the Brewers visited there, in September of 2011, they swept the Reds in three games. Here are what the pitching matchups look like:

Yovani Gallardo (6-5, 4.22 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (5-2, 5.20 ERA)

Marco Estrada (0-3, 4.50 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (3-5, 4.19 ERA)

Zack Greinke (8-2, 2.81 ERA) vs. ???


Brewers reward Greinke in extras after vintage duel

June 23, 2012

> Today, a Brewers starter went nine innings for the first time since April of 2011. Yet, the Brewers still don’t have a complete game since April of 2011.

> The Brewers defeated the White Sox today, 1-0, in ten innings. This was by far the best pitchers’ duel the Brewers have been involved in this year. You knew it was going to be a duel coming in, with Zack Greinke going for the Crew and Chris Sale for the Sox. Both are having All-Star campaigns, and continued their remarkable seasons today.

Greinke may very well have had his best start in a Brewers uniform today. He fired nine shutout innings while giving up just three hits, all singles. He walked one and struck out four. While the strikeout numbers may have been down, these are the types of starts that Ron Roenicke must be looking for: pitching to contact and keeping the pitch count down, which is exactly what Greinke did today. He threw exactly 100 pitches through nine, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him go out for the tenth. Anyway, it didn’t matter that the strikeouts were down for Greinke tonight, because he didn’t even allow a runner to reach second base. Yeah, he was that dominant.

Sale, on the other hand, also had a stellar start. He went eight shutout innings while giving up four hits. He walked one and struck out seven. The Brewers had a few chances to score against him, particularly in the fifth and seventh innings, when they had a runner on second with one out in each inning. But Sale weaved his way out of trouble in both situations.

Sale was removed in favor of Addison Reed in the ninth, and I was worried that if the Brewers didn’t score that inning, Greinke wouldn’t factor in the decision. Reed did toss a perfect ninth, but Greinke came back for the ninth and matched him.

Aramis Ramirez led off the tenth with a double off Jesse Crain, his second double of the night. He was pinch-run for by Nyjer Morgan. Corey Hart then struck out. But, with Rickie Weeks batting, Crain threw a wild pitch that allowed Morgan to advanced to third. Weeks took advantage of it and slapped an RBI single to left field, which would be the only run of the game.

I was honestly hoping for Greinke to come back out and pitch the tenth, but instead struggling closer John Axford was on. And it looked like he was going to have another rough night, as he walked Gordon Beckham to lead off the inning. But he came back to strike out the American League leader in home runs, Adam Dunn, which was a huge out. But he still had to deal with another great hitter in Paul Konerko. Axford may have caught a bit of luck with him- he hit a ground ball down the line, but third baseman Taylor Green had him positioned perfectly, and from there the Brewers turned a game-ending double play.

> Prior to today’s game, the Brewers reportedly sign veteran starter Livan Hernandez to a one-year contract. But the news was leaked in an odd way- ex-Brewer utility man Bill Hall announced it via Twitter after he ran into Livan at an airport.

Anyway, Hernandez has been around for quite some time. He was most recently released by the Braves on June 18th after putting up a 4.94 ERA out of their bullpen. But Livan could be of help for the Brewers, who could need an extra starter if Shaun Marcum does end up hitting the disabled list, or if Marco Estrada has a setback in his rehab. If neither of the situations happen, though, Hernandez could be a long reliever.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the second game of their last Interleague series tomorrow at 6:15 PM CT. They’ll send Randy Wolf (2-5, 5.11 ERA) to the mound, who has had just terrible luck his past three starts. He should have won all of them, but the bullpen found a way to blow it each time. So don’t be deceived by the numbers; he’s been a lot better as of late.

The White Sox will counter with Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 3.52 ERA), who will make a spot start in place of the injured Philip Humber.

> Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Brewers take series from Jays

June 21, 2012

> The Brewers completed a much-needed series win today, as they took two out of three from the Blue Jays. I haven’t had time to post over the past few days, so I’m just going to quickly recap all three games, then talk about a few things after as well.

> The Brewers took the first game, 7-6, in a hard-fought win. The game started in a way the Brewers weren’t hoping to see- Brett Lawrie, the former Brewers farmhand, hit a lead-0ff home run off Randy Wolf on the second pitch he saw. But the offense broke out against Jays starter Henderson Alvarez, scoring six runs in just the first two innings. This included RBIs from Rickie Weeks, Ryan Braun, Norichika Aoki, and Aramis Ramirez. But, with the score 6-3 in the seventh and two men on, Jose Bautista hit a game-tying home run (I’ll go more in depth on that situation later). The Brewers then answered back the next inning on an overturned home run by Ramirez. It was a line drive shot that was actually lower than the top of the wall in left field, but it hit off the yellow strip of padding that extends below the foul line. The ball was first called foul, but Ron Roenicke went out to argue, and the umpires eventually overturned the call after going in to look at the replay.

> Last night’s game, the Jays’ 10-9 win, should have been a fairly easy win for the Brewers, but the bullpen made sure that didn’t happen (again, I’ll talk about our bullpen issues later this article).

The Jays were leading 6-5 in the sixth inning, and after the Brewers loaded the bases with one out, they put in Jason Frasor to pitch to Ramirez. Ramirez then came through with yet another clutch hit, just as he had the night before. But this one was a grand slam to give the Brewers a 9-6 lead. Unfortunately, a combined four runs given up by Manny Parra and John Axford (yet another blown save for him) would end up being the fate of the Brewers.

> Today’s game was yet another offensive outburst for the Brewers, which is a good sign for them, considering the scored at least seven runs in all three of these games. After Edwin Encarnacion homered in the top of the second, the Brewers answered back with five in the bottom of the inning, getting home runs from Corey Hart, Martin Maldonado, and Carlos Gomez. Braun also hit a home run in the seventh inning for his 20th of the year.

> Last night (the 10-9 loss), Tyler Thornburg was making his Major League debut in place of the injured Shaun Marcum, who may actually hit the disabled list. Anyway, his debut appeared to be going fine, but it appeared to me (I was at the game) that nerves may have gotten to him in the sixth. He gave up three consecutive home runs to Colby Rasmus, Bautista, and Encarnacion. But it turned out it might not have been nerves; it may have been a serious drop in velocity, which is a cause for concern. The scoreboard at Miller Park had Thornburg topping out at 96 MPH, and I noticed the scoreboard had him clocked in the mid-to-high 80’s on all of the home run balls. Because of the angle I was at, I just assumed he had hung a couple of sliders due to nerves, but those actually might have been Marcum-speed fastballs. Those type of fastballs can be effective, but, since Thornburg had been throwing in the mid-90’s previous to that and he probably wasn’t getting much movement on them, you can imagine why it was easy for the Jays hitters to start picking him up.

> Despite the fact the Brewers won this series, the bullpen continued to slump. In the first game of the series, Wolf left the game with a 6-3 lead, hoping to pick up his first win since the end of April (despite he’s pitched well enough to win his past three or so starts). But he would have no such luck- Kameron Loe came in and promptly gave up the game-tying shot to Bautista.

Then, last night, after Thornburg’s debut, Tim Dillard came in and gave up a run to finish the sixth. Like I said earlier, Parra pitched the seventh inning of that game, giving up two runs to cut the Jays’ deficit to one run. After Francisco Rodriguez, who has been pitching a lot better as of late, threw a scoreless eighth last night, Axford came in and blew yet another save, giving up back-to-back home runs to Rasmus and Bautista.

Today the bullpen wasn’t as bad, but Dillard did allow an inherited runner to score, which charged an extra earned run to Yovani Gallardo.

But it goes without saying that the bullpen has been flat-out terrible lately. Loe is supposed to enter the game and get groundball outs against power hitters, not give up go-ahead or game-tying home runs. And I have no idea what’s going on with Axford; he may be getting the Brewer-closer syndrome. Previous victims of this include Dan Kolb, Derrick Turnbow, Eric Gagne, and Trevor Hoffman. I don’t know what it is; it feels like we have closers who are stellar for a year and a half, then it’s like they go out there and forget how to pitch. Anyway, maybe Axford shouldn’t be listed with those other names yet, but I can’t imagine the Brewers are going to stand for this much longer.

By the way, just an interesting note from the end of today’s game: Michael Fiers pitched the last inning. He was scheduled to start the first game of the White Sox series, but maybe this means Marco Estrada will be back by then. That, or the Brewers have different plans that we don’t know about.

> As I said earlier, Marcum may be on his way to the disabled list. He experienced shoulder tightness prior to his would-have-been start against the Blue Jays, his former team, so Thornburg was called up for the emergency start.

But this is why I question taking Fiers out of the rotation (assuming he has been taken out). Unless Thornburg is staying to take Marcum’s spot in the rotation until he comes back, which the Brewers hinted they wouldn’t do, I can’t imagine why they would remove Fiers in a situation like this.

> Anyway, that’s about it. The Brewers have an off-day tomorrow, then start their final Interleague series, this one against the White Sox. Here’s what the matchups are looking like:

Michael Fiers? (2-2, 3.60 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (8-2, 2.46 ERA)

Zack Greinke (7-2, 3.10 ERA) vs. Philip Humber (3-4, 6.01 ERA)

Randy Wolf (2-5, 5.11 ERA) vs. Jose Quintana (2-1, 1.53 ERA)

UPDATE: Actually, I recall Brian Anderson saying during today’s broadcast that Greinke got bumped up in the rotation to face Sale, but will be pitching on regular rest because of the off-day. So, either the Brewers are skipping Fiers’ spot in the rotation this time around, or they’re just going to go with a four-man rotation until Estrada returns.


Greinke’s solid effort goes for naught after 15 innings

June 18, 2012

> These aren’t the type of games you can lose. The Brewers’ fell to the Twins today, 5-4, after an extremely discouraging 15 innings. Despite a solid effort from Zack Greinke, the Brewers couldn’t capitalize on any late-inning RISP chances.

Greinke went eight innings while giving up four runs on eleven hits. He walked two and struck out six. The eleven hits and four runs don’t look too great on the box score, but those numbers are because of a bump in the road in the seventh. Other than that, he had a decent start. But this was just his second time completing eight innings as a Brewer.

The Brewers got on the board quickly against Twins starter Nick Blackburn on Aramis Ramirez’s RBI single in the first inning. But Joe Mauer helped the Twins answer back in the third inning with an RBI single of his own.

Then, in the fifth inning, the Brewers put up their biggest threat of the game. Norichika Aoki led off the inning with a double off the right field wall, and Nyjer Morgan followed that by reaching on a bunt single. That gave the Brewers runners on first and third with no outs, but they nearly wasted the opportunity. Ryan Braun hit a weak pop up to second baseman Jamey Carroll, and Ramirez struck out looking. That brought up Corey Hart, who battled with Blackburn until the count was full. Hart then came through in the clutch and hit a three-run blast over the right field wall, not an easy feat at Target Field. This gave the Brewers a 4-1 lead.

But then came Greinke’s rough seventh. I don’t want to say he melted down, but he did blow the lead. He started the inning by walking the hot-hitting Trevor Plouffe, which I didn’t mind; it’s better than him hitting another one into the second deck. Greinke then recovered by inducing a Ryan Doumit pop-out and a Brian Dozier groundout, with Plouffe advancing to second on the groundout. Then came a Twins hitting barrage. Carroll drove in Plouffe with an RBI single, and Denard Span followed that with another single to put runners on first and third. Ben Revere then hit an RBI single, which set the stage for another RBI single by Mauer, who once again tied up the game.

No one would have guessed that the next run of the game would come another eight innings later. Tim Dillard was on to pitch the 15th inning, and gave up a lead-off single to Plouffe. He came back to strike out Doumit, but then gave up a single to Dozier. Carroll followed that up with a single that Plouffe tried to score on, but the right fielder Aoki gunned him down at home. This put runners on first and third with one out. Then, Ron Roenicke made yet another questionable move by replacing Dillard with lefty Juan Perez to face the left-handed hitting Span. I still don’t know why, since Dillard appeared to be handling the rest of the lefties in the Twins’ lineup just fine. Naturally, though, Span hit a walk-off single off Perez to give the Twins their win.

> But the Brewers wasted a ton of scoring chances all game, especially in the extra innings they were given. They wound up leaving 17 men on base, which is averaging over one man left on per inning. And they wonder why the aren’t scoring runs.

> Today was an interesting game. The game seemed to be moving along at a reasonable case, although it started raining after the first pitch and continued to drizzle until around the 11th inning. As Kameron Loe was finishing pitching the 11th, the skies opened up, and the tarp was pulled onto the field. So there was a rain delay in extra innings, not something you see very often. But this made the game extend to nearly six hours long.

> Sort of a random note to end on, but that’s about it. The Brewers come back home to start a three-game set with the Blue Jays tomorrow. Here are what the matchups are looking like:

Henderson Alvarez (3-6, 3.87 ERA) vs. Randy Wolf (2-5, 5.06 ERA)

??? vs. Shaun Marcum (5-3, 3.39 ERA)

??? vs. Yovani Gallardo (5-5, 4.23 ERA)

As you can see, there are a few TBAs on the Blue Jays’ side. That’s because they’ve been having Brewers-injury luck lately. Within a five-day span, three members of their starting rotation were injured- Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek, and Drew Hutchison. But, on the bright side, the Brewers won’t have to face Morrow, who was leading the American League in shutouts and appeared to be on his way to an All-Star campaign.

> Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


Maldonado once again provides late-inning power

June 16, 2012

> When Jonathan Lucroy returns from the disabled list, the Brewers are going to find themselves with three catchers on their 25-man roster. While that is a nice luxury to have, it sacrifices a roster spot that a reliever would probably fill. So that means one of those catchers will probably sent down or traded, but the former is more likely. And George Kottaras may find himself the odd man out this time around.

> After a streak of very embarrassing losses (as if I didn’t emphasize that enough the last few days) in Kansas City, the Brewers finally got back in the win column, taking down the Twins, 5-3. Martin Maldonado once again came through in a big spot late in the game, and here’s an interesting stat: the last three games the Brewers have won (the first and third games of the Padres series, and today) have been because of a go-ahead home run by Maldonado in the fifth inning or later. Now that’s clutch. And it was exactly what the Brewers needed; a close win. John Axford recorded the save after being given a two-run cushion, so hopefully he’s getting back on track after a rough series in KC.

The Brewers got off to another dismal start. Struggling Twins starter Francisco Liriano didn’t give up a hit through the first five innings. Sound familiar? Yep, Luis Mendoza, who typically pitches out of the bullpen for the Royals, no-hit the Brewers through the first six innings on Tuesday. My first thoughts, and I’m sure many other people’s as well, were that it doesn’t matter who the Brewers are facing. They can’t hit anybody right now.

Yovani Gallardo managed to compete with Liriano through the first four innings, giving up just one hit up to that point. But the Twins broke through in the fifth on Trevor Plouffe’s solo shot. Then, after giving up back-to-back singles, Gallardo gave up another run on Alexi Casilla’s RBI single. A few batters later, Gallardo got out of the inning relatively unscathed on a Josh Willingham flyout that just missed being a grand slam (Josh Willingham grand slams and the Brewers don’t have a good history).

The way the Brewers have been hitting recently, I thought a 2-0 hole meant the game was over. But they proved me wrong. Liriano started the sixth by walking Edwin Maysonet, then, a batter later, also walked Carlos Gomez. This brought up Ryan Braun, who struck had struck out on three pitches his last time up. But this at-bat was a different story. After chasing a couple pitches to get down 0-2, Braun hammered a hanging slider over the center field wall (which is quite the feat at Target Field). Next thing you know, the Brewers have three runs, but only one hit.

Unfortunately, Gallardo gave up another home run to the hot-hitting Plouffe in the next inning to tie it up 3-3. That was his last inning, and it was a solid start. He finished with six innings while giving up three runs eight hits. He walked two and struck out seven. But Gallardo featured something we haven’t seen out of him in what feels like years- a change-up. It looked like a circle change; pretty much the same velocity as his slider, but breaking the opposite direction.

Anyway, the game remain tied until the ninth. I thought for sure we were in for another extra-inning game and/or embarrassing walk-off loss, but that wasn’t the case today. With Corey Hart on second and two outs in the ninth, Maldonado hit a go-ahead, two run blast off Matt Capps to give the Brewers their 5-3 lead, and eventual win.

> If you saw my post last night, I ranted about how I thought the Brewers’ season was over. I knew I would come to regret that eventually, since it isn’t true- yet. The Brewers record now stands at 29-35, which is fourth in the National League Central. They’re 7.5 games behind the first place Reds, who are red-hot right now, and 3.5 games behind the Pirates and Cardinals, tied for second. The Cards have quietly struggled lately, and they’re just one game over .500 now after their fast start. The Pirates, somehow, have found themselves in the thick of things at the same time they did last year, but I have a feeling they’ll fade off again.

That’s not to say the Brewers are going to magically pass these teams; they’ll need to work for it if they want to get back in this. My only conclusion is they’ll need to pull a long winning streak out of nowhere. The Brewers have struggled to string together wins this year, but have had no issues stringing together losses, hence their record. If they can somehow get back in contention with all the injuries they’ve been dealt, it’ll be some story. The starting pitching is there. The bullpen isn’t yet, but it may be on its way back. The offense isn’t even close, unless the middle of the lineup- rather, the whole lineup, other than Maldonado- gets it going quickly. This is the time the Brewers have to make a run, before it’s too late.

> Minor League starting prospect Cody Scarpetta had Tommy John surgery last month (it was just announced today). He hadn’t gotten to pitch much this year before going down, but the Brewers are still high on him as a future starter in the Majors.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the second game of this series tomorrow at 1:10 PM CT, sending Michael Fiers (1-2, 4.50 ERA) to the mound. I would say this is Fiers’ last chance to prove he belongs in the Majors, but it sounds like Ron Roenicke is confident that Marco Estrada will move back into the rotation.

The Twins will counter with Liam Hendriks (0-2, 9.00 ERA), who was just recalled from Triple-A for this start.

> Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.

> Box Score

(Coming later)


Season ends in KC

June 15, 2012

> Last night, the title of my article was “Taking ‘Embarrassment’ to a whole new level.” My apologies for not seeing this coming, because THIS is embarrassment. Our season might as well be over.

> And it sure feels like it. The Brewers’ season may have very well have ended tonight in their 4-3 loss to the Royals. They blew it in the ninth for the second consecutive night, but I’m having a tough time blaming it all on John Axford tonight.The defense did plenty of things behind him to make sure that he, once again, couldn’t get it done.

Just like last night, the Brewers played eight great innings. Shaun Marcum turned in a stellar start, going 7 2/3 innings while giving up two runs on four hits. He walked two and struck out five. Francisco Rodriguez got the last out of the eighth to preserve his lead.

Once again, though, everything fell apart in the ninth inning. Axford struck out the first guy he faced, Mitch Maier, but Martin Maldonado couldn’t block it, and Maier reached first base. That, of course, wasn’t Axford’s fault, and neither was the next play. He induced a Mike Moustakas groundout, but first baseman Cody Ransom (why he was playing there is beyond me) bobbled the ball and could only get the out at first instead of getting the lead runner. Axford then came back to strike out Alcides Escobar, the man who got him last night, on the nastiest slider I’ve ever seen him throw. But, he followed that up with a walk to the light-hitting Jarrod Dyson, which was a no-no. Axford then gave up what should have just been a game-tying hit to Brayan Pena, but the Brewers’ great defense made sure that wasn’t the case. Left fielder Norichika Aoki fielded the ball fine, and threw it back second baseman Rickie Weeks just fine. But Weeks dropped the ball, and by this point Dyson was at third. He decided to test Weeks and try for home, which was a great choice, since we all know Weeks can’t throw home. So, what does he do?

Throws it past Maldonado, and Dyson scores.

Good game, guys.

> I’m really starting to regret the Brewers signing Weeks to a long-term deal. Our four-year, $56 million man is hitting .164, and is a liability half the time defensively (especially on throws to home). Obviously, this season isn’t Weeks’ fault, but he’s part of the struggling cast.

> But this season keeps getting worse and worse and worse. Just when I think the Brewers have hit their low point, they do something that makes them look even worse. Which makes me wonder what they’re going to do tomorrow in Minnesota.

> I could go on and on about how terrible things are going, but the bottom line is everyone (except the starting pitchers) is to blame. I’m not going to blame injuries anymore. I’m done finding excuses for this team; they’ve dug themselves their own whole, and now it doesn’t appear they’ll be able to resurface.

That’s baseball sometimes though, unfortunately. We helpless fans can’t do anything about it.

> The Brewers start a three-game series against the Twins in Minnesota tomorrow. I predicted that the Brewers would sweep the Royals (which they could have done easily if not for all the late-inning bloops), but look where that got me. So I might as well say the Twins are going to sweep the Brewers. Anyway, here are the pitching match-ups for the series:

Yovani Gallardo (5-5, 4.21 ERA) vs. Francisco Liriano (1-7, 6.45 ERA)

Michael Fiers (1-2, 4.50 ERA) vs. ???

Zack Greinke (7-2, 2.96 ERA) vs. Nick Blackburn (3-4, 7.68 ERA)


Taking “embarrassment” to a whole new level

June 14, 2012

> I guess we should just start getting used to this.

> The Brewers lost to the Royals today, 4-3, in eleven innings.

But they shouldn’t have lost. Up until the ninth inning, they played one of their better games in a while. They got a nice pitching performance from Randy Wolf (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K), good defense, and timely hitting. Third baseman Cody Ransom and shortstop Edwin Maysonet saved Wolf a couple of times, but, other than that, Wolf put up his second consecutive quality outing, a sign he might be settling in to the 2012 season.

The Brewers got their first run in the top of the third on Aramis Ramirez’s RBI infield hit (which was the fourth consecutive infield hit that inning), and then the go-ahead run a Ryan Braun RBI single in the seventh. The Brewers also tacked on an insurance run in the ninth when Norichiki Aoki scored on an error.

Everything was going right. Until the ninth inning, of course.

John Axford, who looked awful in his last outing against the Padres, was on for the save. He got Billy Butler to ground out for the first out of the inning, but the wheels fell off from there. Axford walked Eric Hosmer on four pitches, then came back to induce a Jeff Francoeur flyout. But Axford went on to walk Mike Moustakas, then served up a game-tying triple to ex-Brewer Alcides Escobar.

If you recall, in my post for the last game of the Padres series the other day, I said the Brewers threw their fundamentally worst inning of the year, as far as pitching goes. Well, we may have a competition for that title.

Kameron Loe came in to to start the inning, and promptly gave up a lead-off single to Butler. He then walked Hosmer, and gave up a single to Francoeur. The Brewers “manager” decided he had seen enough, and replaced Loe with Jose Veras. And what does Veras do?

Walk Moustakas on five pitches, with the bases loaded. Good game, guys.

> I just don’t know anymore. I thought this team had hit its low point of the year, but, the way things are headed, it might only get worse. I predicted the Brewers would sweep the Royals this series, and now here we sit, losing a series to one of the worst teams in the American League.

But, as the title of this article implies, the Brewers are taking the word “embarrassment” to a new level. A walk-off walk? Give me a break. This team is bad, but it isn’t that bad.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will hopefully salvage one game of this series tomorrow at 7:10 PM CT. They’ll send Shaun Marcum (5-3, 3.50 ERA) to the mound, who has won his last three starts. He’s also 3-1 with a 1.58 ERA in his career against the Royals, who he’s no stranger to from his time in the AL. But, unless the offense and bullpen get their crap together, none of those stats really matter, unfortunately.

The Royals will counter with Luke Hochevar (3-7, 6.57 ERA), who was supposed to pitch today, but got pushed back by Jonathan Sanchez. The Royals have always had high hopes that Hochevar would eventually be an ace, but things have gone that way so far throughout his career. He’s never faced the Brewers in his career.

> Anyway, thanks for reading, and feelfree to leave your thoughts.

> Box Score

(coming later)


Brewers spoil late scoring chances in loss to KC

June 13, 2012

> I thought the Brewers would be able to sweep the Royals in this three-game series. Well, you can scratch that.

> The Brewers fell to the Royals tonight, 2-1, in a game that was pretty embarrassing on many different levels. The headline was Zack Greinke’s return to Kansas City for the first time since being traded to the Brewers in December of 2010. But, by the late innings, that was merely a side-note after all of the other things that took place.

Alex Gordon hit a lead-off homerun off Greinke in the first inning on a 3-2 pitch. And this was no cheap shot, considering it sailed into the waterfall of Kauffman Stadium.

After that, though, Royals starter Luis Mendoza stole the show. Of course, Mendoza was a starter who was making his first start since returning from the bullpen, so naturally he had to dominate the Brewers. And he did just that, firing six no-hit innings to start the game. The Brewers broke up the no-hit bid in the seventh on what would have been an infield single for Ryan Braun, but he wound up reaching third base, courtesy of some little league work by the Royals’ infield. Mendoza then walked Aramis Ramirez, which prompted the sometimes quick hook of ex-Brewer manager Ned Yost. So Mendoza was pulled after 6+ innings, giving up just one hit- the infield single to Braun- while walking two and striking out four.

But the Brewers nearly left that inning without scoring. Taylor Green flew out to the left fielder Gordon for the first out, but Braun tried to tag up, and was thrown out at home by Gordon. Ramirez advanced to third on the play. Then, Rickie Weeks came through against reliever Aaron Crow with a game-tying, RBI single.

That was all the Brewers would get. They eventually lost the lead in the eighth inning, and I shouldn’t even need to tell you who gave it up. Francisco Rodriguez gave up the go-ahead RBI single to Billy Butler.

The Brewers had runners on third in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, but failed to drive in any of those runners. Royals closer Jonathan Broxton made it interesting in the ninth, giving up a lead-off single to Ramirez. After that, he struck out Green, but then gave up an infield single to Weeks. Broxton struck out George Kottaras, and induced a Brooks Conrad groundout to end the game.

> This game was an example of some classic Ron Roenicke management. He removed Greinke after seven nice innings, despite the fact his pitch count was only 105. After Greinke was removed, announcer Brian Anderson said that “pitch count got him tonight.” No, Brian. Ron Roenicke management got him. Roenicke needs to learn that a 105 pitch count really isn’t that high, even in this day and age. If Greinke was at 110 pitches or higher after seven, then sure, I could understand not putting him back out for the eighth. But you see all of these pitchers (from other teams) nowadays going the distance using 120-130 pitches. Roenicke barely lets our guys touch 100 pitches, and it’s driving me insane. By the way, it’s worth noting that a Brewer pitcher hasn’t thrown a complete game since April of 2011- the first win of the 2011 season.

Next up is Ron’s pinch-hitting selection in the ninth inning. I’m not going to blame him for using Kottaras, but, in reality, he hasn’t done crap since April. So he isn’t that “reliable, clutch bat off the bench” anymore. But I AM going to blame him for using Conrad as the last batter of the game with a man on third. Conrad was batting .081 going into the at-bat, so the game was obviously over before he even stepped in the batter’s box. Anybody would have been better than Conrad in that situation.

Lastly, the use of the bullpen, which sort of ties in to the Greinke situation. Not only did Roenicke remove Greinke, he removed Greinke in favor of Rodriguez. At this point, every time K-Rod enters a game, you can just consider it a loss, whether it’s tied or the Brewers have the lead. His 0-4 record should tell the story of how bad he’s been, although he’s actually blown more games than that.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers will play the second game of this series tomorrow at 7:10 PM CT. They’ll send Randy Wolf (2-5, 5.45 ERA) to the mound, who has been pretty bad overall this year, but is coming off a nice start against the Cubs. The Royals are one of the few teams he’s never faced in his career.

The Royals will counter with Luke Hochevar (3-7, 6.57 ERA). If the Brewers can’t beat this guy, we might as well call it a season. However, I predicted today that the Brewers would hammer Mendoza, and he nearly no-hit them. So I’m done making predictions for now.

> Anyway, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.


After Maldonado’s HR, Brewers hang on to take series

June 11, 2012

> This win certainly didn’t come as easy as it should have. But in the end, a win is a win; and a much-needed win for the Brewers.

> The Brewers defeated the Padres today, 6-5, in what became a nail-biter in the ninth inning. After Ryan Braun’s two-run home run in the eighth inning, it looked like the Brewers had an easy win that was theirs for the taking. But it didn’t turn out that way in the ninth inning.

It was a dismal start to the day, as Yovani Gallardo promptly gave up a lead-off home run to Will Venable. The ball didn’t appear to be hit that well, but it turned out that the ball was carrying a lot today. Gallardo actually nearly gave up another home run to Chase Headley in that same inning, but it was robbed by Braun in left field. Again, the ball wasn’t very well hit; both of these balls were opposite field home runs (Venable and Headley are lefties) that would have been routine fly balls on any other day. Anyway, Gallardo gave up another run in the second inning. With a man on second, Gallardo attempted to field a grounder from John Baker, but it went through his legs for an error, leaving men on first and third. Everth Cabrera then grounded out to score the run, although it looked like there could have been a play at the plate. But first baseman Taylor Green picked up the ball and just stood there looking at home instead of throwing, and first became his only play.

The Brewers had runners on base against Padres starter Anthony Bass all day, but couldn’t capitalize on their chances until the sixth inning. Norichika Aoki led off the inning with a single. He then stole second but got to third because the throw sailed into center field. Braun drove him in with an RBI single to cut the Padres’ lead in half, 2-1. After Aramis Ramirez and Green both flew out, the Brewers chances that inning weren’t looking very good, but then Rickie Weeks drew a walk. A batter later, Martin Maldonado once again came through in the clutch with a go-ahead, three-run blast, just like in the first game of the series. This gave the Brewers a 4-2 lead. Then, like I said earlier, Braun hit a two-run home run in the eighth that appeared to be just icing on the cake at the time. But it turns out those were two very important insurance runs that won the Brewers the game.

The ninth inning was just flat-out ugly. As far as the relief-pitching goes, it was the Brewers’ fundamentally worst inning of the year. John Axford came in to start the inning, but wound up recording just one out before the floodgates nearly opened. Chris Denorfia hit a one-out single, Venable doubled, and Logan Forsythe walked, all in sequence. Axford then gave up an RBI single to Headley, and followed that up with a bases-loaded walk to Carlos Quentin. The score was now 6-4, and marked the end of Axford’s awful outing. He threw 37 pitches and recorded just one out; more proof that he can’t pitch in non-save situations.

Then Jose Veras came in, which immediately got me thinking that the game was over, in a bad way. But, he struck out Yonder Alonso on eight pitches- all curveballs. Now there were two outs; any kind of out felt wonderful that inning. But Veras came back to walk Jesus Guzman, and now no mistakes could be made. There couldn’t be a walk, a hit, or anything. Veras needed to record an out no matter what. But, Veras came through in the clutch to strike out Baker on a 3-2 count- probably the biggest pitch any Brewers pitcher has made all year. That closed out the Brewers’ 6-5 win, and Veras was rewarded with the save.

This whole ninth inning frenzy sort of sucked up the fact that Gallardo actually turned in a decent outing after his shaky first two innings. He went seven innings while giving up two runs (one earned) on five hits. He walked two and struck out five, earning his fifth win of the year.

> Just a few days ago, I wrote about how we shouldn’t have expected Maldonado to put up very good offensive numbers, at least right away. But he’s proved everyone wrong so far, especially this series. Maldonado has brought his average up to .235 (he was down at .133 just a few days ago, mind you), and has come through when the Brewers needed him to this series. He hit a three-run home run the first game, a go-ahead RBI single yesterday (although the lead didn’t hold), and a three-run homer today. In other words, he’s been by far the Brewers’ biggest source of offense this series. By the way, I already mentioned that both home runs were go-ahead home runs, but that only adds on to his clutch factor.

> Ron Roenicke announced that, when ready, Marco Estrada will step back into the rotation in place of current fifth starter Michael Fiers. After Fiers’ first career start in Los Angeles, I was pumped and hoped he would be the five guy for the rest of the season. But, he hasn’t fared as well in his past few starts, having sub-par outings against both the Pirates and Padres, two of the worst offenses in the National League. Fiers will get at least one more start, but, at this point, I’m fine with Estrada returning to his role when he’s ready. Fiers would probably then move to the bullpen as a long man, or get sent back down.

> And that’s about it. The Brewers have an off-day tomorrow, but will start an Interleague series with the Royals on Tuesday. Here’s what the pitching match-ups are looking like:

Zack Greinke (7-2, 3.13 ERA) vs. Luis Mendoza (2-3, 5.36 ERA)

Randy Wolf (2-5, 5.45 ERA) vs. Luke Hochevar (3-7, 6.57 ERA)

Shaun Marcum (5-3, 3.50 ERA) vs. Vin Mazzaro (3.60 ERA)

As you can see, Greinke is going to be starting against the Royals in the first game. He has never faced them, but is still very familiar with them. He was drafted by the Royals, and spent his entire career with them until he was traded to Milwaukee in December of 2010. Greinke has been great at home since coming to the Brewers, but Kauffman Stadium should feel like home to him.

> Anyway, that’s about it. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.

> Box Score

AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Corey Hart, RF-1B 4 0 0 0 0 0 3 .253
Norichika Aoki, CF-RF 2 2 1 0 2 1 0 .300
Ryan Braun, LF 3 2 2 3 0 0 0 .311
Aramis Ramirez, 3B 4 0 0 0 0 0 3 .254
Taylor Green, 1B 4 0 1 0 0 0 1 .246
Rickie Weeks, 2B 1 1 0 0 3 1 0 .158
Martin Maldonado, C 4 1 1 3 0 1 3 .235
Edwin Maysonet, SS 4 0 1 0 0 1 3 .200
Yovani Gallardo, P 3 0 0 0 0 2 1 .077
Carlos Gomez, CF 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .258
Totals 29 6 6 6 5 9 11

BATTING

2B: Green (6).

3B: Maysonet (1).

HR: Maldonado (3), Braun (15).

TB: Maldonado 4, Braun 5, Maysonet 3, Aoki, Green 2.

RBI: Braun 3 (40), Maldonado 3 (10).

GIDP: Maysonet.

Team RISP: 2-for-8.

Team LOB: 5.

BASERUNNING

SB: Aoki (5).

FIELDING

E: Gallardo (1), Weeks (6).

IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Yovani Gallardo (W, 5-5) 7.0 5 2 1 2 5 1 4.21
Francisco Rodriguez 1.0 2 0 0 0 0 0 4.33
John Axford 0.1 3 3 3 2 1 0 4.37
Jose Veras (S, 1) 0.2 0 0 0 1 2 0 4.18
Totals 9.0 10 5 4 5 8 1

Pitches-strikes: Gallardo 104-64, Rodriguez 22-13, Axford 37-21, Veras 17-7.

Groundouts-flyouts: Gallardo 13-4, Rodriguez 0-2, Axford 0-0, Veras 0-0.

Batters faced: Gallardo 29, Rodriguez 5, Axford 6, Veras 3.

Inherited runners-scored: Veras 3-1.


Brewers embarrased by Padres’ bullpen

June 10, 2012

> Today was an embarrassing day for the Brewers’ offense, to say the least. They lost to the Padres, 5-2, and gave up 13 hits to the worst offense in the National League. And the Brewers could barely get any hits for themselves, despite the fact Padres starter Andrew Cashner left after just 2 1/3 innings. I thought the Brewers would start hitting after that, since Cashner was coming at them with a huge fastball- topping out at 101 MPH- and a 90 MPH change up that complimented the fastball nicely.

The Brewers got one run off Cashner, which was an RBI double by Rickie Weeks in the first inning. After he left the game, the Brewers could only get one more run: an RBI single by Martin Maldonado that gave them a temporary 2-1 lead. But the Padres jumped on Michael Fiers in the sixth inning for three runs, and a lead they wouldn’t again lose.

> I wouldn’t be as mad about the Brewers getting shut down by the Padres’ bullpen if we were still in 2011. Last year, the Pads actually had a bullpen they could brag about, with guys like Heath Bell, Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson, and so on. But that isn’t necessarily the case this year. Today, the Padres used Ross Ohlendorf (who went 4 1/3 innings of long relief), Gregerson, Joe Thatcher, Dale Thayer, and Huston Street. The Brewers should have been able to hammer Ohlendorf, like they did back in his days with the Pirates. Same goes for Street, whose save percentage against the Brewers is hovering around 60%. Other than Gregerson, none of these guys should have been too tough for the Brewers to handle. But I guess I can’t expect too much out of the Brewers’ offense with all the injuries. Regardless, though, it’s embarrassing.

> The only positive that came out of today’s game is that the Brewers only needed to use three pitchers. The enigma that is Fiers went six innings while giving up four runs on ten hits. He walked one and struck out six. Then, Manny Parra went two innings, and Francisco Rodriguez handled the ninth.

> And that’s already about it; really not much to talk about today. The Brewers will play a rubber game of this series tomorrow at 1:10 PM CT. They’ll send Yovani Gallardo (4-5, 4.50 ERA) to the mound, who will hope to come back from a sub-par outing against the Cubs his last time out. It was an odd start- he had good stuff, as shown by his ten strikeouts, but gave up five runs in six innings.

The Padres will counter with Anthony Bass (2-5, 4.21 ERA), who has shown flashes of being a decent pitcher at times this year. But, his ERA has escalated over his past few starts. Bass has never faced the Brewers.

> Anyway, I’ll have up the box score later. But for now, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.

> Box Score

AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Corey Hart, 1B 5 0 0 0 0 3 5 .258
Norichika Aoki, RF 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 .297
Ryan Braun, LF 5 0 1 0 0 2 1 .306
Aramis Ramirez, 3B 4 0 2 0 1 0 0 .259
Rickie Weeks, 2B 4 0 1 1 0 0 3 .159
Cody Ransom, SS 2 1 0 0 2 2 2 .226
Nyjer Morgan, CF 3 0 1 0 0 2 1 .230
Martin Maldonado, C 2 0 1 1 1 0 1 .233
b-George Kottaras, PH-C 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .241
Michael Fiers, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
a-Brooks Conrad, PH 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .081
c- Taylor Green, PH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .245
d-Carlos Gomez, PH 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 .258
Totals 33 2 8 2 4 11 15

a-Struck out for Fiers in the 6th.

b-Struck out for Maldonado in 8th.

c-Batted for Parra in the 8th.

d-Singled for Green in the 8th.

BATTING

2B: Weeks (9), Ramirez (17).

TB: Maldonado, Braun, Ramirez 3, Weeks 2, Aoki, Morgan, Gomez.

RBI: Weeks (15), Maldonado (7).

Team RISP: 2-for-8.

Team LOB: 11.

BASERUNNING

SB: Aoki (4).

FIELDING

DP: (Ransom-Weeks-Hart), Hart.

IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Michael Fiers (L, 1-2) 6.0 10 4 4 1 6 0 4.50
Manny Parra 2.0 2 1 1 1 2 0 4.30
Francisco Rodriguez 1.0 1 0 0 0 2 0 4.50
Totals 9.0 13 5 5 2 10 0

WP: Fiers, Rodriguez.

Pitches-strikes: Fiers 91-62, Parra 32-19, Rodriguez 14-10.

Groundouts-flyouts: Fiers 2-4, Parra 2-0, Rodriguez 0-0.

Batters faced: Fiers 27, Parra 9, Rodriguez 4.


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